Cranberry CotoneasterCotoneaster apiculatus
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Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun
The Cranberry Cotoneaster is a top-rated spreading groundcover that is non-invasive but that will cover an area over 6 feet across with a single plant. Rising only 2 or 3 feet tall it is perfect on slopes and banks, or to fill terraced walls. Plant it as well at the front of beds that border broad paths and driveways, to soften the hard, straight edges. It has attractive glossy leaves that turn brilliant red in fall, and the small pink flowers of spring become ¼ inch red berries by fall.
Plenty of sun is perfect for the Cranberry Cotoneaster, but it will take a little partial shade too. It grows well anywhere in zones 4 to 7. Any well-drained soil suits it, including alkaline soils and clays. A little attention to watering during the first year or two will pay dividends in good growth, but otherwise no serious care is needed. If enough space is allowed when planting, pruning will be unnecessary. Pests and diseases are rare and this is an unbeatable groundcover, which is especially suitable for slopes and banks.
No matter how big or small your garden is, there is always a need for plants that fill spaces with attractive, low-maintenance plants. Moving beyond that ‘lawn and clipped evergreen’ look is easy if you vary the forms and heights of the plants you grow, and richness and beauty will soon emerge from the simplest planting arrangements. Broad, spreading plants that stay low are incredibly useful for filling the foregrounds of your beds, softening hard edges, and covering sloping ground. We can’t think of a more useful and versatile plant for all those places than the Cranberry Cotoneaster, which will cover lots of ground without taking over. Charming and low-key beautiful, the arching branches bring a unique look, the pink flowers are lovely, and those red berries in fall, often with red leaves as well, are downright beautiful. Bring contrast and beauty into your garden with this great bush that asks so little and delivers so much.
The Cranberry Cotoneaster is a broad, arching shrub growing no more than 2 or 3 feet tall, but spreading widely to cover 6 feet or more of ground. The branches have a stronger central stem with arching side stems, giving it something of a herring-bone look. Branches overlay each other, making a dense and weed-resistant covering over the soil and turning blank spaces into beauty. The long arching stems will follow the ground, winding around rocks or cascading over a wall. The small rounded leaves are less than one inch long, with a smooth glossy surface and a dark green coloring. In fall they turn bright red, and these colored leaves usually stay on the plant for a long time, certainly into November, adding interest to the garden in early winter. In warmer zones they may stay all winter before being replaced by the new spring growth. Although this plant covers a large area, it is not invasive, because the stems don’t normally root, they just lie on the ground.
In spring small, 5-petalled blooms open all along the branches. These are pink and charming, and they make an attractive display in early spring. Over the summer these turn into ¼ inch round berries, which by fall are a bright cranberry-red, decorating the branches while the leaves are still green, and continuing to add to the beauty of the fall leaves.
Wherever you have open areas of soil in the sun, there you can plant the Cranberry Cotoneaster. It will soon make a solid mass of branches, filling the spaces in front of larger shrubs. It is especially useful on slopes, where its spreading form really stands out, and the branches catch soil that would otherwise wash away. Plant it along the top of a wall and let it hang over and down, or put it where a bed meets a driveway, to soften the hard straight lines. If you have a rock garden it’s a definite addition you want, spreading between rocks and boulders very effectively.
The Cranberry Cotoneaster thrives in all moderate zones, from zone 4 to zone 7, which includes a large part of the country.
Full sun is best for the Cranberry Cotoneaster, but it will happily tolerate a few hours of shade each day if it has to. It will grow in all well-drained soils, including alkaline soils and clay soils. It also tolerates some road salt, so it can be planted along paths and driveways. Avoid wet spots and that is all it takes to keep this adaptable plant happy in your garden. Once established it is reasonably drought tolerant, and dryness even intensifies the fall coloring. Water occasionally during extended hot an dry periods, especially during the first years.
Generally free of pests and diseases, the Cranberry Cotoneaster is a very low-maintenance shrub, so plant it in abundance around your garden – it will reduce weeding, avoid the need for mulch, and give you multi-season interest. The natural form of the branching is attractive, so avoid any temptation to take the trimmer to it and turn it into a boring blob. If you want to reduce the size, remove whole branches, or shorten them back to a side branch, which can be done in early spring, or any time of year.
The Cranberry Cotoneaster, Cotoneaster apiculatus, was first collected in western China in 1910 by Ernest Henry Wilson. Known as ‘Chinese’ Wilson, this famous plant collector and explorer travelled extensively through China and Japan collecting new plants for the English nursery of James Veitch & Sons and for the Arnold Arboretum in Boston. He made major contributions to the Asian plants we grow in our gardens today, and the Cranberry Cotoneaster is one of the most well-known of his plants. It is not clear, though, that the plant we are growing today really is a descendent of his introduction, and the identification of this plant and its near relatives is obscure. There may be doubt about its true name, but there is no doubt about the beauty of the Cranberry Cotoneaster.
The Cranberry Cotoneaster is a great groundcover that is always worthwhile growing. If you need something similar but lower, take a look at the Tom Thumb Cotoneaster, its little brother. Perhaps you have places for both, but be sure to order right away, because these popular groundcover plants sell out very quickly.